I continued the mode of probing into things unknown for my final year work. After a few visits to a local pub in Southampton, myself and a number of friends observed that there was a vending machine in the toilets, that sold vibrating cock rings and herbal viagra. This was a shock, considering the conservative nature of the clientele of over 50-60s who frequented the pub, its friendly staff and homely atmosphere. I decided to conduct a comprehensive exploration of this aspect of the drinking culture in Southampton, by visiting a great number of pubs all over the city to photograph the vending machines. I was interested to see if there is a correlation between an establishment’s typical patrons and the sort of products available to purchase in the toilets. As it went on, the project became just as much about the actual process of visiting these machines as it was about the final product. Myself and a female friend would visit a pub, buy a cheap drink in order to stay there long enough to covertly take a small film SLR into each of the men’s and women’s bathrooms to snap a photo of the vending machine. The end results were published in a book was titled “Forty Eight Pub Bathrooms”, a reference to Ed Ruscha’s Twenty Gasoline Stations, and contained text along with the images of the bathrooms (which incidentally, were sometimes without vending machines at all), of the drinks and food we purchased in the pubs, the price we paid, and anything interesting about the pub itself.
With my final project, I want to convey how the idea of desire, pleasure, and excitement, which are hidden in pub toilets, waiting to be sold as a last minute cheap thrill. Fantasy items, pleasure enhancers and, cheap novelties are sold on the premise that they will turn a flirty encounter into a lust-filled experience. Though any patron knows, even vaguely, what each package contains, no one would want to be caught buying one. The details of sex are still taboo, yet we all do it, we all know each one of us engages in both sex with a partner, and masturbation on our own, yet we turn a blind eye to these products designed to enhance these experiences. It’s not illegal to sell or buy them, so why is there such a stigma attached to buying them from these machines? What is it about the items that is so forbidden and taboo?